Let’s be honest. When it comes time for vacation, some parents dread traveling with kids. No, it isn’t because we don’t want to spend time with our littles. It is more about the stresses, headaches, and worries that come along with making travel plans and everything in between.
If you are a parent with young children, you have landed in the right place. We are here to help you navigate the wonders of traveling with your kids to lessen the burden so you can enjoy your time with the family.
How to Mentally Prepare Kids for the Upcoming Trip
When you have young children, talking to them about upcoming trips is important as this can help ease any anxiety they may have. When you talk with them and explain when you are leaving and how you will be traveling, ask them if they have any questions or concerns you can address.
It can also be fun to create a countdown calendar for the family. This helps mentally prepare your children for an upcoming trip, and you can watch the excitement grow as they count down the days to take off.
Mentally preparing your kids before a trip ultimately helps them adjust to the change in the environment and routine they are about to experience. In addition to talking with them and counting down the days, you can involve them in the planning. Show them pictures of where you are going and discuss all the fun activities they will do.
Next, talk about what they can expect. For example, how will you be getting there? Plane, train, automobile? This is a good opportunity to teach them about the different kinds of transportation there is, and it could get them even more excited, especially if it will be a first-time experience for them.
Time to Plan
Now is the time to plan your trip and make your reservations. Decide where you want to go and what kind of budget you have. Once you have all this figured out, you can book flights or a rental car and decide what to do while you are away.
If you plan on taking a long-haul flight with toddlers or younger kids, it might be best for everyone if you find flights at night. The chances are pretty high that your kids will sleep through most, if not all, of the flight, making things easier for everyone.
With babies, the later it gets into the day, the fussier they become. Travel with a baby is best done in the early morning hours when they are well-rested, happier, and more willing to adapt to a new environment. Knowing when to fly with your kids helps each trip go more smoothly.
When traveling with kids, you want to find unique things to see and do to create long-lasting memories. Once you have your destination, start jotting down family activity ideas. Break your days into mornings, afternoons, and evenings as you plan your itinerary.
When you have younger children, you don’t want to necessarily fill each day to the brink because you will have cranky and worn-out kids to contend with. Teens will be easier to deal with but harder to please. When planning, you need to find that perfect balance so everyone has fun.
Pull out a map of the area, plot out different activities and restaurants, and then talk with the family to get everyone’s opinion.
Where to Stay
When traveling with the family, flexibility is important. Find accommodations near where you will be exploring. This makes it easier to get a nap in for the littles or a quick break for the older kids before you continue your explorations.
What to Pack
This wouldn’t be a good guide to traveling with kids if we didn’t include a few checklists of essentials you want to pack in your luggage for kids of all ages ahead of your trip reservations.
If you are flying, you will want to have some essentials that are easily accessible for the flight. Always check with the airline to make sure you can carry these items in a carry-on bag rather than your checked bag. Also, give yourself some extra time to get through security if you are bringing your stroller and car seat:
- Formula or breast milk
- Baby blanket
- Change of clothes for baby
- Resealable bag to hold soiled clothing
- Soft toys and books
- Antibacterial hand wipes and hand sanitizer
- Any baby medicine you may need
Other Essentials for Baby’s Luggage:
- Diapers and wipes
- Diaper cream
- Baby wash and lotion
- First aid kit
- Baby food
- Bottle brush
- Baby monitor
- Play mat
- Weather-specific clothing suitable for your destination
- Extra toys and teethers
When traveling by car, ensure the car seat is properly installed, and you want to also make sure the stroller is easily accessible when making pit stops.
Here are some essentials to pack in your toddler’s carry-on and suitcase to keep them happy, comfortable, and entertained:
- Crayons and coloring books
- Wet wipes
- Diapers or Pullups
- Small toys they enjoy
- Toddler headphones
- Change of clothing
- Hair accessories
- Their favorite blankie or stuffed animal
- Sippy cup
- Destination-appropriate clothing and shoes
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
Elementary Age and Teens
Elementary-aged kids and teens are going to be a bit easier because they are more self-sufficient, but here is a list of essentials you want to make sure they pack in addition to their own comfort items:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Comb or brush
- Toiletry bag with hygiene items
- Clothing and accessories
- Headphones or earbuds
- Tablet or smartphone and charging cord
- Lip balm or chapstick
- Vitamins or allergy medications
- A book or magazine
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: How to Keep Your Child Busy
When going on a long or short trip, you want to make sure the kids are happy and comfortable. This means ensuring they are well-fed, stocked up on entertainment, and ready to tackle the trip.
🎧 Audiobooks: This is easy entertainment for everyone
🥨 Turn snacking into an activity
♟ Play fun, educational games
🪀 Pack a treasure chest of all your child’s favorites
📱 Download apps for kids of all ages
When traveling by car, it also helps to schedule some pit stops in advance so everyone can stretch their legs.
How to Keep a Schedule While Traveling With Kids
To keep a schedule when traveling with kids, plan your travel time around their regular schedule to maintain some structure. Stay as close to your routine as possible. For example, if you have a baby traveling with you, try to travel as much as possible during nap time. If you are traveling by car, plan stops around when you know they normally feed.
You may need to learn to be more flexible when traveling by plane or train. But to help with the travel, pack their favorite toys and snacks and use them as a distraction.
When planning meal times, try to eat around the same time you would all eat at home. This will help keep everyone on a routine and makes for an easier transition from vacation to home when all is said and done.
Beauty Sleep While Traveling
Recreate their home environment as much as possible when it comes to sleep. It doesn’t hurt to bring dark curtains or sheets you can use to cover windows. A sound machine is also helpful and can drown out external noise. This is especially useful when staying in a busy hotel or resort.
Planning and getting organized when traveling with kids is the best thing you can do. This way, everyone can enjoy the trip without worrying about the hassles and headaches of typical travel. Instead, everyone will be well-rested, calm, happy, and ready to make happy memories as a family!
Looking for more family travel resources? Check out more articles made for families our blog!